British protestors attack a field of GM corn in England Scientists in Great Britain who are collaborating on development of a new generation of genetically engineered food crops have sent an open letter to anti-GM protesters, pleading with them not to destroy “years of work” by attacking their research plot.
According to a report in The Independent newspaper, the activist group Take the Flour Back has pledged to “decontaminate” a test site in Hertfordshire, England, where agricultural researchers are growing the world’s first genetically modified wheat that can repel insect pests by emitting specific volatile pheromones.
According to the report, the chemical signal exuded by the new strain of “whiffy wheat” is naturally produced by aphids as a warning signal to deter other aphids. If successful, the crop could significantly reduce the use of pesticides needed to control insect damage.
However, the activists claim that the wheat contains an artificial gene “most similar to a cow” and that open air trials represent an “imminent contamination threat to the local environment and the UK wheat industry”.
Appealing to the protesters as “fellow environmentalists,” a group of scientists led by Professor John Pickett, Distinguished Research Fellow in biological chemistry at England’s Rothamsted Research center and director of its Centre for Sustainable Pest and Disease Management, called on the activists to “reconsider before it is too late.”
The scientists were reacting to the threat contained in a call to action posted by Take the Flour Back last month: “This open air trial poses a real, serious and imminent contamination threat to the local environment and the UK wheat industry. We’re calling on the Government and Rothamsted to remove the GM plants themselves, but if they fail to do so, then May 27 is the last weekend action can safely be taken before pollination. This crop is a threat to our thriving wheat industry and our food security.”
In their letter, the scientists replied that, “Our research is trying to shed light on questions about the safety and usefulness of new varieties of the staple food crops on which all of us depend. We do not see how preventing the acquisition of knowledge is a defensible position in an age of reason.”
Nice try, guys.
The source of their angst
Unfortunately, the most radical leaders—and more so their followers—among the anti-GMO movement are not fighting against the development and application of genetic engineering to food production because they’ve carefully evaluated the risks and benefits and concluded that the former outweigh the latter. Their opposition is emotional, visceral, instinctive.